I apologize now if the answer is obvious, but I'd like to be absolutely sure before proceeding with out an architect.

I have purchased land that I intend to build a house on, and I'm now at the stage where an architect would typically draw up or look over the construction plans. I have drawn my own plans, and while I am not an architect, I am a licensed (PE) mechanical and electrical engineer (two degrees and licensed as both). This will be the first house I've built, but it is my understanding that an engineer signs off on and seals the work of the architect.

My two-fold question is this: can I approve my own designs given my professional occupation and licensure, and if so, can I forego the architect step if I am the one signing off on the design? In short, can I design and approve my own plans because I am a licensed engineer, or do I still have to employ an architect and/or another engineer to sign off on plans myself or an architect has created?

  • It really depends how good you are at the "polymath" thing. Here on diy.se we see a lot of EE's bumble through here going "I'm a degreed EE! Code electrical must be easy! I don't need to learn stuff!" Whereas if you can throw yourself in with a novice's curiosity and a hunger to learn and a willingness to suppress vanity and recognize how little you know (and fix that)... well, people like that can do miracles. – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 14 '16 at 1:59
  • Haha, I understand exactly what you're talking about. I've been PE licensed as both for just shy of 6 years with 4 years as an FE before, and there is nothing easy about code electrical. Especially when you're talking about a massively complex project like new structure construction. Truth be told, degreed or not, I am still a good bit intimidated by undertaking an EE project of that size, but I've also always felt that thoroughly exploring something of this nature would really enable me to develop a far more thorough understanding than I (or anyone) ever did through strict academic work. – Carrie May 14 '16 at 5:37

This is really a regional legal question more than anything. You'll have to ask your local building code enforcement office. Typically, though, no, no one needs an architect...just someone that can approve the engineering (be it 3rd party, or the jurisdiction, itself).

Now, there are arguments for and against hiring an architect in general (outside of sign-offs) but that's a different question.

FWIW, we just bought land and are designing it ourselves. Alas, I am not an engineer, so will be having to go 3rd party for that.

  • I thought it might end up being more of regional legal issue too. I couldn't find anything that conclusively held one way or the other on the issue, so I wasn't positive I could get an exact answer. – Carrie May 13 '16 at 22:59
  • The other thing I wondered how would factor in is the situation that might arise if, down the road at some point, I sold the house. Since owner-added extensions and additions on a house always end up turning into a massive headache for all those involved in selling/buying the house if the structural changes weren't properly permitted beforehand and/or done to code, I was concerned that the house might be viewed as a similar risk if I were to decide to sell one day. – Carrie May 13 '16 at 23:07
  • @Carrie again, probably a regional thing. In the US, however, I'm rather shocked at how little concern there seems to be for construction quality in new and used home sales. I don't think the non-permitted issue even comes up unless it's clearly sub-par work and often it has to be really sub-par work for anyone to notice. Also, in the US, keep in mind a vast majority of houses are built without architects...usually for the worst style-wise, but doesn't seem to be hurting sales. :) – DA01 May 13 '16 at 23:44

Would you let a recent engineering grad design a bridge? An architect should bring a depth of experience in housing that you may or may not have. This should include ease (/cost containment) of building, usability, and hopefully, beauty.

To your question, it might vary by jurisdiction (phone your AHJ), but I'm pretty sure you could draw your own plans.

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